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'Tis the season

Union County experiences increase of influenza cases

Published: Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 9:12 a.m. CST • Updated: Monday, Jan. 3, 2014 11:47 a.m. CST

Feeling sudden chills, fatigue or body aches? If so, you might be experiencing early symptoms of the flu.

According to Robin Sevier, Union County Public Health nurse, Union County is experiencing an increase of flu cases.

Strains and symptoms

Sevier said two strains of the flu have become more predominant throughout the county recently — Influenza A-strains H1N1 and H3N2.

According to the National Institute of Health, H3N2 infection was found to be more severe than H1N1 or B-strains in terms of fever. Muscle pain and other symptoms such as headache, sore throat and general discomfort were found to be equally frequent in H3N2, H1N1, and B infections. Gastrointestinal symptoms were more common in influenza B-strains.

Sevier also said symptoms of cold and influenza, which can take five to seven days to develop, are very similar and it can be difficult to tell if you truly have the flu.

“With the flu you’re going to have a fever and body aches and feel very fatigued,” she said. “Those are the main symptoms that would differentiate between cold and flu.”

Prevention

“The best way to protect you and your family is to receive an annual influenza-vaccination,” said Sevier.

To prevent the spread of the influenza virus, Sevier encourages people to wash their hand “good and often” and cover their cough.

“And, throw away tissues,” she added. “Don’t save and reuse them.”

Sevier also recommends anyone infected with the virus to stay home and to stay away from others who have the flu if you are not infected, if possible.

Treatment

Sevier said, if the virus is identified early, a doctor may be able to prescribe anti-viral medications to ease some of the symptoms such as nausea.

“There is an instant test they can do,” Sevier said. “Usually right there at the office visit to tell you if you are positive or negative.”

Many symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter medications such as fever-reducers, anti-diarrheal medications and fluid.

“Just treat symptoms you are experiencing,” said Sevier. “Antibiotics are not going to cure influenza, but sometimes they are used to treat underlying condition not related to influenza.”

When to see a doctor

Sevier said influenza can last up to 10 days depending on the person’s health. Elderly and young children are particularly susceptible to the virus.

If you are experiencing flu symptoms with no signs of improvement or experiencing a high fever, 102 degrees or higher, that will not come down with Tylenol or ibuprofen, Sevier said that would be a case in which to see a doctor.

The flu vaccination is still available, however, availability is very limited. Hy-Vee and Nurses on Call in Creston have four and 60 doses available, respectively.

For more information about influenza, visit www.idph.state.ia.us/Cade/Influenza.aspx.

For information about seasonal influenza clinics in Union County, call 641-782-3682.

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